How a weirdo sees the world…
It has been nearly three years now since I left Germany, in order to live and study abroad, first in Wales and then in Scotland.
Before I left, I took everything Germany had to offer for granted. Although I had lived there my whole life, I never felt particularly connected to my fatherland; or that’s what I thought.
Then I moved to Wales to study the IB (International Baccalaureate). My English was virtually non-existent and I was surrounded by a culture and people I did not recognize. I had always thought that people were exaggerating when they said that a few months in a foreign country could make you fluent in that language. I soon realized that they were right. When you are surrounded by English speaking people day and night, when every word you hear and see is in English, you pick up the language pretty quickly; believe me, you have no other choice.
I am entirely honest when I say that I never felt homesick – considering that I was only 16 years old when I left home, this was quite surprising; at least that is what everybody told me. I never felt especially brave or strong. I just wanted – and I still do! – to see the world, have my own little adventures. Anyway. Although I didn’t miss Germany, I started to appreciate growing up there and German more and more. Of course, at first I was terribly excited to be in a different country (everybody with wanderlust like me will understand that), but automatically, I started to compare: everything from houses and transport systems to food and fashion style was scrutinized. I don’t know whether it was because I was used to it, but Germany always seemed to come out as the winner. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Germany is better than Wales, or more superior, just that it was more to my liking. (My comparisons mainly bear upon the industrial city Swansea in Wales and the historical Potsdam and Berlin where I grew up in Germany. This, of course, could have distorted my perception).
As I was the only German I met in Wales (with the exception of a girl who, while being born in Germany, had lived in the UK for 14 years), many people started referring to me as ‘German’, rather than using my real name. This, along with constant questions about how thing were different where I came from, contributed to the increasing connection and patriotism I felt towards Germany. You could say that my patriotism was ‘made’ by the people and things I encountered in the UK.
Please don’t picture me as a diehard patriot who loves her country more than anything and acts superior to people from other nationalities. I am not that kind of person! One of my greatest passions is traveling and experiencing different cultures. I don’t care where I sleep, or what quality my cloths of food are, as long as I make new experiences. All I am saying is that I learned to appreciate what I have/had and living in a different country and travelling around (especially the two weeks I spent in Kenya, surrounded by poverty) has helped me greatly to do this.
Although I haven’t set a foot on German ground for a year now, and am not planning to do so for the next years, I still consider myself German through and through. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything. My motto is to live in the moment and always look forward to what is to come. In my case that is spending three months of my summer vacation as an au-pair in Giza, Egypt. 🙂